The majority of licensed games - particularly those based on superheroes - tend to follow the same action-based formula. Batman on the other hand has often bucked the trend. He's starred in the usual beat-em-ups and platformers but his keen detective skills has occasionally landed him in some adventure titles. Case in point - Batman: The Caped Crusader.
There are two different stories included in the package, one featuring the Joker and the other the Penguin. While there's a lot similar in terms of mechanics, the areas, enemies and story are commendably different. Joker has captured Robin and set up bombs around Gotham city. This mission begins in Gotham's version of Hyde Park and sees you wandering the streets and sewers. Meanwhile the Penguin has hatched a plan to take over the world with an army of robotic penguins. Break into his mansion and detain him!
There are a lot of inventory-based puzzles, but it relies on trial and error to solve them. Batman is meant to be controlled with a joystick (or a keyboard will suffice) so it gets a bit fiddly. Pressing fire and down will bring up an inventory menu screen, picking up any items beneath your feet in the process. Here there are ten empty spaces for items and five actions. The bottom two are reserved for quitting the game and turning off the music (boy, am I greatful for that last one). The top two are 'drop' and 'use' respectively and the middle button returns you to the game. It's all explained in the manual but I thought I'd reiterate it here as it's not particularly obvious.
Although it was released in 1988 amidst the burgeoning popularity of the point-and-click adventure, The Caped Crusader does have its fare share of action elements. Most areas are filled with goons of various sizes and they each take a few hits to take down. Unlike most similar game of the era, the action is actually pretty forgiving. Tucked away in the inventory screen is a picture of your bat-face representing your life metre. It will gradually dissolve into a skull after every hit but you can recover by munching on food. And more often not, enemies will drop candies once defeated which gives back any health you lost fighting him (yay sugar!).
The combat does show that this was originally designed for the 16 and 8-bit computers that were far more popular in Europe at the time. The single-button joystick that was the Amiga's go-to method of control meant that each action had a very convoluted way of execution. Here, Batman can punch in six different directions but the action button alone doesn't do anything. Instead, you have to hold it down and the direction of the joystick will determine your attack. This seemed to be the agreed upon method of the time but I find it insanely counter intuitive. Thankfully action is not all what this game is about.
A year after the Amiga and Commodore 64 release, a DOS port arrived. The graphics and sound are inferior in every way, but the gameplay remains intact. Rather than just emulating the Amiga joystick, this port actually has keyboard support. Alas, the hold-fire (the spacebar) and a direction to attack remain, but in using the keypad instead of the arrow keys, they've thought to map the diagonals to separate keys. This gives you far more control over your actions which a joystick simply cannot give.
Batman: The Caped Crusader has aged dramatically. The control scheme is hindered by the limitations of the time and the harsh music that loops contantly could easily be used in methods of torture. Despite looking quite nice for the time with each screen looking like a comic-book panel, it's still eclipsed by other games of the era (Monkey Island for example). That being said, I actually quite liked playing this game. If I had played it back in 1988 it would've been a standout title in my collection and my nostalgia would be all over it. As it is, if you find it looks interesting, you'll probably like it.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the PC version to modern systems and FS-UAE to emulate the Amiga version. Manuals included. Tested on Windows 10.
Batman: The Caped Crusader is © Special FX Software
Batmanis © DC Comics Inc
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me